This Saturday all you journalism groupies – all two of you – have a chance to hang out with former Dallas Morning News TV critic Ed Bark and other scribes to watch excerpts and chew the fat about Stop the Presses: The American Newspaper in Peril, a documentary that premiered at last week’s AFI-Dallas International Film Festival.
What began for the filmmakers – including former Morning News movie critic Manny Mendoza – as an examination of large-scale layoffs at the Dallas paper grew into a film with national scope, sounding a warning bell, if not a death knell, for the tradition of killing trees, turning them into paper, covering the pages with inked words, and distributing copies to the masses. The movie has sparked much debate, especially among newspaper types who wonder if there will soon come a day when nobody has to wash ink from their fingers because they get only corporate-edited “news” spoonfed to them via computer, and most reporters are starving while writing independent blogs and washing dishes on the midnight shift at Waffle House.
“Newspaper” implies that you hold a piece of paper in your hands to read the news. Printing and distributing the paper is expensive and labor-intensive and, in truth, an outdated process that should be dead or dying. But what should never cease is the process of unbiased reporters going into the world to seek and reveal the truth about war, politics, municipal management, and all the other levels of bureaucracy so often obscured by a veil of government- and corporate-generated bullshit.
Whether those stories are read on laptop, Blackberry, iPhone, or on a microchip surgically implanted in your ass – OK, maybe it would work better in, say, your hand – is beside the point, as long as the stories are being read and sparking awareness and change. As one of the people interviewed in the documentary points out, the only profession mentioned in the U.S. Constitution is “the press.”
Filmmakers Mendoza and Mark Birnbaum will chat with “Uncle Barky” at 4 p.m. Saturday at Stratos Global Greek Taverna, 2907 W. Northwest Hwy. in Dallas. They’ll also show outtakes featuring current and former Morning News staffers. Admission is free – but try to be kind to any former journalists hanging around the door using their press hats to gather spare-change donations